Such topics as maintenance of county roads and property taxes were among the topics which candidates in the March 3 Upshur County Republican primary discussed Monday night at a forum at the Open Range restaurant in Gilmer.
Although candidates for offices ranging from constable to sheriff spoke, the majority of written questions from the audience–read to the candidates by moderator Phillip Williams–were posed to the five running for retiring Precinct 3 County Commissioner Frank Berka’s seat, and the three candidates for retiring Precinct 1 Commissioner Paula Gentry’s office.
James Noble, candidate in precinct one who spoke more briefly than the other candidates in either commissioner race, said “I just don’t want to raise taxes” and that he would “watch over the taxpayers’ money” while working with the county road administrator.
Noble said he had been in business more than 30 years, 15 of them in the oil field. He said he would probably approve raising the county’s match on employees’ retirement.
One of his opponents, Gene Dolle, cited his record as precinct one constable, a post he has held for the past seven years, and said road maintenance is the main thing he hears about from county residents. He said he would look into why “our citizens have so many complaints. . .I’ve heard time and time again that nobody gets with you” about roads.
Dolle also said he wanted to lower property taxes, but that he could not “guarantee” he would not vote to raise them since the county might suffer some type of “disaster” and because the state will force unfunded mandates on the county.
The other candidate in precinct one, Gladewater Mirror publisher Jim Bardwell, said he had been “a watchdog for the people” during his 40 years in the newspaper business. Bardwell, who also owns newspapers in White Oak and Lindale, said he had covered politics those 40 years and that “this county needs economic development” since “bringing in more business will help keep our taxes down.”
As for roads, he said “everybody complains about” them and that he wanted to ask Road and Bridge Administrator Andy Jordan what he could do to help.
One of the candidates in precinct three, Daphne Grimes, cited her background as a certified public accountant and pledged to “be financially responsible to you.”
She said the county might want to look at returning control of roads and bridges to commissioners (a move which would require voter approval).
One of her opponents, private investor Robert Green, cited his past as a builder and supervisor of $1 million projects and said he believed there was a “consensus” that roads were the county’s number one problem.
“We lack funding” for them, so the county must build on its tax base by bringing in new companies as “money cures all ills,” Green said. “I’m not for raising taxes,” he added.
Another candidate in that race, Richard Smith, said his background is in sales and management in the heavy equipment business and that he has managed staffs.
He said the county must “try to maintain the roads that we have” and that he wanted to establish a maintenance plan for them, if one does not already exist. As for taxes, he said he did not want to raise them and that he would “use every available resource” to at least retain the current tax rate without increasing it.
Yet another candidate in precinct three, Kent Abernathy, noted he stepped away from day-to-day operations of McKaig Chevrolet Buick in Aprl 2017, but is still a consultant for them and pledged to “give you 100 percent of my time” as commissioner.
He said he favored the commissioners court holding a workshop with Jordan and determining “Are we fixing the roads that need to be fixed first?” Abernathy also praised the 2-cent tax increase the current court approved last year, but said “I’m not for raising taxes unless it is absolutely necessary.”
The other candidate in precinct three, Michael Ashley, said he had spent 40 years working for TXU and pledged to be “diligent” with taxpayers’ money.
Ashley said the problem with county roads is that overloaded log and dump trucks are damaging them. He suggested trying to get those who own such vehicles to pay for some of the repairs. He also said he had never voted for a tax increase, but that he might support one.